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2001 Wild Horse Merlot, Paso Robles, California

Wild Horse was one of the first major commercial vineyards in the Paso Robles area of the Central Coast here in California. Started by Ken Volk in 1982 and purportedly named after the herds of wild horses that roam the hills behind the estate, the winery has grown to be one of the largest and well known producers in the area, at a volume of 140,000 cases. In 2003 it was acquired by Peak Wines International, and became part of a family of wineries that include Geyser Peak.

Up until recently I had only had their Pinot Noir, which they are well known for. I think their Pinot is somewhere between above average and very good, and a generally good bet from the region. However, I have been consciously trying to drink a bit more Merlot, so when I saw this in the market the other day I decided to give it a try.

One of the interesting things about this Merlot, and potentially one of the things which I think makes it less than successful for me is the fact that it is a blend of quite a few varietals. The 2001 is comprised of 88.9% Merlot, 4.1% Cabernet Franc, 2.8% Pinot Noir, 2.7% Malbec, 1.0% Petite Verdot, and .5% Syrah, all of which adds up to either an extremely creative blending regimen or a scattered and unfocused wine, depending on your point of view. The winemakers believed these additions would "improve the mouthfeel and lengthen the finish," but in my opinion, a Merlot's finish can't be helped just through a little blending.

The 14,000 cases of this wine were aged in French, American, and Hungarian Oak.

Tasting Notes:
A nice dark garnet color in the glass this wine sports aromas of toasted oak, dried cherries, black plums, and light tobacco. In the mouth it continues with (somewhat thin) flavors of plums and black cherries with a somewhat heavy note of green wood amidst very mild tannins. The finish brings in some elements of redcurrant and is heavy on the toasted oak, which is how I would characterize the whole wine -- a little too much wood without enough lush fruit to balance it out.

Food Pairing:
Because of the oak on this one I would suggest it be paired with something that has a sweet or a fruit character. A good match might be this calf's liver with apples and onions.

Overall Score: 7.5/8

How Much?: $15

I picked this up at my local gourmet grocery store. Places like Andronico's, Whole Foods, etc. should carry it.

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